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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Re-Occupying this Blog through the Re-Occupation of Duarte Square #D17 (LENGTHY--Lots of Pics, Vids, and Deets)

Hi there y'all!

Another absence came and went but so much has taken place in that time--primarily my attempt to participate weekly in the Occupy Wall Street movement. I'd hope to write of my ventures on here but working on it for class as well as just managing through the semester as a whole didn't seem to work so well. But the semester is over and action is still happening so I'll begin with the most recent of events, the #D17 action/re-Occupation at Duarte Square.

I'm sure you have a general knowledge of what Occupy Wall Street is at this point, whether you have sought to inform yourself through the mistake-ridden mainstream media or have been following recognized journalists and public figures who constantly attend and present their experiences meshed with their knowledge or the information of the new independent media that has risen from the movement itself, so I won't go into depth on it in this post. I will provide some background information on the day itself which will be all that follows in red, so if you feel you don't need to read up on this, feel free to skip ahead to my talk of the day itself. 

The #D17 action was meant to be a global day of action with various reasons for it:

1. The third month celebration of the Occupation, regardless of the evictions
2. Bradley Manning's birthday, whose pre-trial began the previous day after 18 months of detainment
3. The one year anniversary of street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi's act of protest by setting himself on fire--the trigger for the Tunisian Revolution as well as the Arab Spring

Because of the eviction of the protesters from Zuccotti Park at the dawn of November 15 along with their inability to return, the plan of action for the day was to re-Occupy and find a new location of permanence for the full-time protesters that spent day and night there, as it had become a symbol and message many found pertinent to the movement. Thus attention was directed to Juan Pablo Duarte Park, located approximately a mile away from Wall Street, yet still relevant to the mission of the protesters. The reasoning was it was a piece of land that belonged to Trinity Church--a frequent location for the meetings of various working groups taking part in OWS yet also one of the largest land owners in the city, and when broached on allowing protesters use the closed off space as their new encampment, they refused. The church was criticized for it by many, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and calling them out on hypocrisy in their so-called support of the movement. With various other clerical supporters, the demonstrators called to action the taking of the Park for their celebration.

Though the day began at 12 pm, I didn't arrive at Duarte Square till a little before 3 pm (sadly my attempt at a shortcut to get there a little past 2 led to a huge detour...thanks MTA). I met up with my friend Zachary, who had brought his best friend Andrew for his first experience at OWS, and we didn't have to wait long before a march was underway. We weren't sure where we were headed, nor did many of the people around us but the approximately 300 people that had gathered that day chanted and marched on loudly and enthusiastically. I even got the chance to lead a chant or two with a few others, which allowed me to hear how annoying I could possibly sound as I called out "Whose streets?!" but with the overwhelming returning call of "Our streets!!" it didn't seem like much of an issue. There were, of course, had cops walk alongside us on the street watching our actions but also carrying on in conversation of their own, seemingly amused and not tremendously worried of the protesters. We marched North on Canal Street before turning back and returning down Varick Street and soon enough we found ourselves almost back to where we had started except a little further down: Duarte Park.


As someone of short stature, it was difficult to determine what was going on at first, especially once the hoots, hollers, and cheers rose up from the crowd but the message was passed along of the ladder that had been placed further down towards 6th Avenue. We stood right by the corner of Grand Street and Varick Street, lost among the cheers as people climbed the ladder rapidly up and into the vacant park. With so many people there, it was difficult for some to make their way towards it so in their desire to see the park occupied, they went on and climbed the fence itself, inciting even louder cheers for every individual that sat up top to raise their fist towards the crowd before jumping down on the other side.

**I apologize for the side angle in this and some of the other videos--I'll be sure to remember this for future videos

Soon, a good lot of protesters could be seen to have made it to the other side. With their own celebratory cheers, the re-Occupation of Duarte Park was official, but surely not over. The ladder was still only able to allow so many people to get inside so quickly so it was obvious what the next action must be: the tearing down of the fence itself.

The police only sat idly by for so long though. While the typical few recorded everything that was taking place from the safety of the top of their vehicle, the riot cops led the other departments of blue shirts and community affairs into the scene to disrupt the joyous activity. The first to get wrestled to the ground and arrested was the man who Mic Checked the crowd to advocate the taking down of the fence. The cops moved in on the others inside but all those on the sidewalk were suddenly getting pushed away from the fence, off the sidewalk and into the street. One community affairs official even attempted to push various men onto a woman in a wheelchair and avoided the sight of her intently while being yelled at by all that were around to look at her and to stop shoving. Another woman stood face to face with another cop and argued that they all had a right to stay on the sidewalk while other protesters chanted "Who do you serve?! Who do you protect?!"

We eventually crossed to the opposite sidewalk without much hassle, until a giant sign that said "Our Voices Need Space" was attempted to be opened up, but as it was larger than the width of the sidewalk, this led to protesters trying to get it open while stepping into the street, and further conflict ensued between them and the riot cops and community affairs officials nearby as both tugged at it.

The sign was opened up, though, and the protesters returned to Duarte Square to convene and try to determine what was the next move. Various protesters were caught on the other sidewalk as police surrounded them and appeared to be at a standstill with exception for chants that could hardly be heard at the square. Meanwhile, others tried to peek through the holes of the wall by the fence that made seeing into the arrests inside Duarte Park difficult. Jeff-Bob Charoin, a civil servant currently working with the New York general attorney Eric Schneiderman, was in the midst of explaining to some officers calmly off to the side “that there is a law that defends my right to be here but as I tapped his shoulder and said ‘Exogenous,’ I was getting shoved away brutally. My heart’s still racing, but I suppose I’m just lucky I didn’t get arrested just now.” From this point on no one was allowed near the fence to peer into the park.

A Mic Check ensued to try and calm the crowd of protesters and let celebrations flourish, though from the conversations that took place, celebration was the last thing on the minds of many. Meditation and crafts took place by the statue of Juan Pable Duarte in which a few participated, but most were involved in discussion relating to the events still on-going. Some watched to see what would happen across the street, where eventually the protesters were allowed to go. The riot cops eventually left as well with many booing them.

As it began to get darker and our stomachs emptier, Zach, Andrew and I took off for food. I watched the #D17 stream on Twitter as people tweeted that movement towards the home of the Rector of Trinity Church, Jim Cooper. We mapped out their general location and quickly headed off (almost getting hit by the cars of impatient drivers on Canal Street) towards Varick and Vandam, where the last set of directions were tweeted. In going there, we came across a small group that was returning to Duarte Square and joined up. Still on Twitter, I began to read various protesters tweeting from different locations, some going past Union Square, others headed there, and then those we were marching with--the giant band of protesters had been split up.


Once at Duarte Square, we tried to determine what to do. Following the tweets, the northern most group appeared to be headed towards Times Square and had no police following them, thus they took the streets! They also had no press with them; most of whom were still with us. A quick discussion on whether to try and catch up with them or not took place--consensus being to remain at Duarte as it was our original place of occupation and word that some were returning was confirmed. So people hung out and chatted for a bit and I got my own Hipster Cop sighting for the first time (though no photo since my camera is very bad with inconspicuous nighttime shots) as we waited for Kitchen and the other protesters to return. It was not long, though, before another Mic Check was called stating that the leading group of protesters had gotten caught in a blockade by cops at 29th Street between 6th and 7th Avenue, and arrests were imminent for the approximate hundred that were there. The consensus was to remain there but for any press in the area to head over immediately. Our trio jumped on the train and sped there as fast as we can, only to find abandoned police vehicles and desolate city sidewalks.

At this point, my phone had died and so we had no connection to finding out where to go. We came across another protester, Mickey, who had left to find the group that was there as well. Having been to the Times Square protest a few months prior, Zachary and I assumed they managed to continue forward in the direction so we went on. Meanwhile, a connection to Twitter was being attempted on Andrew's phone to confirm it. Mickey told us about her life in Canada before moving to New York, going from place to place, and saying she was occupying for an Native American reserve that was in deplorable condition not far from Ottawa. It was upon reaching Bryant Park that we were correct in our assumption--they were by the red stairs, which had been barricaded by the cops. We headed over, just in time for the 7:30 General Assembly that was taking place. Reminiscing on the prior protest there, we looked bleakly and sarcastically commented on the police on horses as well as the riot cops that surrounded the vicinity. Nonetheless, the protesters that were gathered appeared to be in a jovial mood as the beat drums, danced, and chanted in tune "Bloomberg Beware! Zuccotti Park is Everywhere!" An inspiring moment of people stating their reasons for occupying followed, with everything from personal struggles to get by to the struggles of people throughout the world. Granted, this probably went on for a bit too long, as the large group began to shrink. We sat nearby as it continued, reviewing the day's events before deciding to leave.